VETERAN LEEDS Rhinos forward Jamie Peacock reckons the Super-8s will separate the men from the boys.
Rhinos made a winning start to their campaign against Warrington Wolves last week, but face another huge challenge tonight in a first versus second home clash with Wigan Warriors.
Peacock backed the Super-8s format before it kicked off, predicting it would mean more intense matches over the final third of the season – and he reckons so far it is living up to expectations.
“It will be interesting to see how players cope with it,” he said. “I imagine some players and clubs aren’t used to that intensity for a two-month period. It is really going to sort the men out from the boys.
“I think it has been a great concept so far and we are building nicely towards the back end of the year.”
Rhinos are top of the First Utility Super-8s table, with Wigan two points behind in second place.
A Leeds win would be a big step towards claiming the league leaders’ shield and a home semi-final, but the race for top spot will be blown wide open if Wigan claim the points.
It could be Peacock’s final game against Wigan before he hangs up his boots at the end of
the year and he is predicting a high-octane clash.
“At the moment, with the Super-8s, all games feel like four-pointers,” Peacock said.
“We are quite used to that at Leeds, we are used to the play-off mentality and going into high-pressure situations.
“We have played in bucket loads of them, so I think it’s one of the areas where we have an advantage over other teams.
“But I have to say, Wigan are used to playing that kind of intense rugby as well. When you’ve got two teams who are able to cope with that kind of intensity, you will get a great game. That’s what I expect to play in (tonight).”
Both teams began their Super-8s campaign with a win last week, Rhinos thrashing Warrington 49-10 just a week after their Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final victory over St Helens.
“We’ve spoken about that,” Peacock said. “Tough players, good players back up performances. You aren’t a flash in the pan, you don’t peak one week and be rubbish the next.
“You deliver week after week after week. You ask any sports person, that’s the true mark of greatness for a player or an individual or a team, to consistently deliver high performances.
“I think we as a bunch of players are aiming for that and also the coaching staff have created an environment where we can do that.”
Rhinos beat Wigan at Headingley earlier in the year, but have lost the last two meetings.
Peacock insisted there’s no element of payback in their motivation for tonight.
“We just want to beat them and get some distance between ourselves at the top and the other teams,” Peacock said.
“Catalans did us a favour last week by beating St Helens, but when you’re in first spot like we are, your destiny is in your own hands. It is about how you perform and we believe if we perform well we will give ourselves every chance of winning.”
Meanwhile, England academy full-back Ashton Golding is due to return from a long-term back injury when Rhinos under-19s face St Helens at Stanningley tomorrow (noon).
Elsewhere, forward Danny Washbrook will leave Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at the end of the season, to rejoin his former club Hull. Coach Brian Smith has named an unchanged squad for tomorrow’s crucial visit of Bradford Bulls, including the players who lost to Salford last week, plus Jordan Tansey and Andy Yates.